While blockbusters have come back in big fashion this summer, animated offerings have been thin on the ground unless you’re a franchise fan.
If you’re not keen on Lightyear or the upcoming Minions: The Rise of Gruit’s worth taking a voyage with Netflix’s original movie The Sea Beast. Directed and co-written by Chris Williams (the co-director of Moana and Big Hero 6among others), the movie has sailed into select cinemas ahead of its Netflix release on July 8.
Inspired by the fantastical beasts that adorned 16th and 17th century nautical maps, The Sea Beast is set in a world where such beasts exist and humanity has responded by creating monster hunters to track them down and kill them at sea.
One such hunter is the celebrated Jacob Holland (Karl Urban), part of Captain Crow’s (Jared Harris) crew on the Inevitable. But when young Maisie Brumble (Zaris-Angel Hator) stows away on his ship for their latest quest, it takes Jacob on an epic adventure into uncharted waters.
The titular beast is the Red Bluster, the white whale for Captain Crow and our initial glimpses are of a fearsome giant red beast, setting us up for an extended chase movie. Following the Inevitable’s battle with the Red Bluster at the end of the first act though, the movie plays its real hand.
Jacob and Maisie end up getting more intimate with the Red Bluster than they planned, opening up their world to what’s really happening between man and beast. The central message here isn’t particular new – guess who the real monsters are – but it’s told poignantly and without talking down to its audience.
It helps that the beast’s design evokes memories of Toothless from How to Train Your Dragonand it’s just as adorable and characterful. The Sea Beast also throws all manner of cute beasties of all sizes into the mix, including Maisie’s favorite Blue who will challenge the Red Bluster as your favorite.
While the creature designs invariably lean towards cute, the design work elsewhere is impressively realistic and detailed. From the water effects to the sweeping camerawork during the set pieces, The Sea Beast is striking and gorgeous to behold. If your local cinema is playing it, it is absolutely worth the big-screen experience.
The Sea Beast is especially impressive during its beastie set pieces which wouldn’t be out of place in an action blockbuster. They’re imaginative, epic in scale and, while there are a few child-friendly gags, they’re treated seriously and have genuine tension.
It’s the set pieces that give the movie its unique edge as it is otherwise How to Train Your Dragon, but with sea beasts. We’re not saying that’s not a winning mix, especially with a bit of swashbuckling thrown in, yet it’s necessary to have something else going on when the movie otherwise plays out as you’d expect.
There’s no doubt that The Sea Beast is a voyage worth taking though. It’s a visually spectacular and entertaining adventure with a well-told message that will be enjoyed by the whole family.
The Sea Beast is out now in select cinemas and arrives on Netflix on July 8.
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